Science has its definitions of what the mind is, yet, for most of us, we don’t even consider the question; driven by the fact that what would do the ‘considering’ is the mind itself.
It’s like one of those logical traps, like why it’s a bad idea to saw off the branch of the overgrown apple tree that you’re sitting on… Can the mind be aware of itself? Being self-aware; or aware of oneself is a key component of any consideration of our full being.
The mind is firmly established as ‘me’. So powerful is this identity that we can even use the mind to interfere with our vital functions – like breathing, for example.
The instinctive functions, like fear, so this for us as well, but they are developed to take their own actions – though we can interfere with that if we choose.
Our will operates through the mind. We consider a course of action, test its safety with memory, debate it ‘in our minds’ then make a decision, passing that to the agents of action within our mental and physical makeup. In the early stages of the action we are operating at the microsecond level to check that what we thought we had initiated is actually coming to pass.
The mind is mainly concerned with the world – the ‘out-there’. The autonomic nervous system takes care of most of our internals, including our mind’s infliction of various poisons, like alcohol. We are complex beings, and pleasure (and avoidance of pain) makes up a whole chunk of our identity.
What unsettles the mind is if we ask the question “Who am I”, and do so holding the possibility that our minds may not be the whole story.
This may seem trite: “I’m me of course!” That should be the answer.
In simple terms, we cannot find ourselves in the mind. No amount of searching will tease out a place or a ‘thing’ that we can fully endorse as ‘me’.
We can clearly feel the mind as the place of intent…. But it’s not the place ‘where we be’. It’s not the oasis of our Being…
The way the mind deals with the ‘out-there’ is by allocating everything the status of an object. We are used to the idea of objects: individual things that are separate from each other… and, most importantly, from us.
We spend our lives refining the nature of our library of external objects. The four-legged thing that we sit on as a child becomes a universal ‘set’ of things called chairs. Once learned we can recognise not just that the wooden object over there is a chair but also what its function is – no matter what the shape or material… I’ll just go and have a snooze in that armchair rather than at the kitchen table.
It’s seamless. But the mind is clever enough to know that such categories of objects must always be capable of extension. The chair that the man in the car workshop is sitting on turns out to have three legs rather than four. Yet he sits safely… Note to mind: chairs for sitting on don’t necessarily have four legs, and some of them are called stools.
The deepest journey we can take with our mind is to get it to quieten itself. It will object this because it ‘knows’ that if it’s not running and constantly interpreting the world for ‘us’ Then we are in danger. There’s a paradox in that, as you may have spotted.
But perhaps we are not in danger if we drop beneath the mind, at least most of the time. It may be that under the object-based vigilance there lies a layer of true self, a place from which the mind actually arises, like a giant wave rises up from the sea, yet never ceases to be part of it…
This might just be a place of real and not false identity. It may be a place and a self whose authenticity could never be questioned…. Because its nature is undeniably real, and does not have to be built by logic, learned and remembered as important.
It may simply – with all the power in the universe, BE.
In this series of posts, we will examine this possibility, and find a ‘richness beneath and within’ that we may never have considered.
and find a ‘richness beneath and within that we may never have considered…
©Stephen Tanham 2022
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.